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Blast from the past: Kargil and the World Cup
Thanks to Pradeep, a friend from NTU who has since moved on to other pastures, I've rediscovered older writings of mine for IGNet, a site setup for the IG at NTU, Singapore. Thanks a lot to Srijith for hosting IGNet when its domain expired. Given that I've always had an opinion and have somehow or the other managed to find a way to express it, I'm totally delighted at locating these articles/opinions/write-ups. Mind you, these are rather dated, most of them written in 1999.
Along with the fact that the Pakistani intrusion of Kashmir succeeded in exposing Pakistan's obvious military involvement with the Kashmir militants, the Kargil encounter showed us a facet of India we had seldom seen before, that as an aggressive, super patriotic nation.
At the forefront of this radical change was a septagenurian Prime Minister who was extremely forthright and clear in the way he handled the issue even though some of the ministers in his cabinet chose to expose themselves to be the idiots they really are. But what was even more amazing was the way all Indians responded to his call and rallied behind the soldiers. The "war" brought about a patriotic feeling in India on a massive scale. People from all walks of life wanted to contribute something for the jawans. More than a dozen funds sprung up from nowhere collecting money for the soldiers and their families. Requests to donate blood came by the gallons to the hospitals and the army camps. So much so that hospitals would probably be better off enlisting those volunteers to provide blood to needy civilians because the army generally has a fairly good stock of blood.
All this was so eerily similar to the frenzy we saw in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup. Companies piled on the World Cup bandwagon by the hundreds. If you bought a TV set you could actually get a chance to watch the World Cup on another TV, for free ! Scooters proclaimed themselves the official carriers of the Indian fan, although it is impossible to believe that Apple Singh or Sivamani went all the way to London on a Bajaj Chetak ! Need I expond on the way cricketers who we never knew existed and those who we thought couldnt say a word in English, were thrust into the limelight and they suddenly became the "experts" !
Kargil wasnt too different in this respect too. Retired army generals, officers etc. were all in great demand with the various television channels eager to get their sound bytes before the others did. In much the same way as Harsha Bhogle went to England, just to interview the cricketers and the commentators there and also to present a daily report on what was happening where, NDTV sent Barkha Dutt and a few other reporters to the foothills of Tiger Hill during the daring raids. The reports from her were no less exciting than those from Bhogle, except possibly for the fact that Boycott wasnt around to say 'Mee moom would have climbed that hill bare footed'.
With a huge percentage of the population being in the youth bracket, it isnt difficult to see why Kargil suddenly became more important than the World Cup. (although admittedly by the time the Kargil conflict went into full blast, the World Cup dream was over for us) Any person born after 1970-71 or so would never have had the opportunity to have been in a 'warlike' atmosphere. On the other hand, he/she would have seen/followed at least 3-4 World Cups by now ! So the World Cup became 'just another event' while Kargil took centrestage. I wouldnt have been surprised if moms had chided their dissident children with words like 'Chup hoja bete warna 9 baje Star News dekhne nahin doongi' instead of the standard blackmail of not allowing him/her to watch the cricket match that day !
Things are a lot more saner now with definitely lot less excitement in the air. Perhaps it will stay so for a long time, for the Sahara Cup is unlikely to materialize, what with the fighting in the Pakistan cricket board now ! Life just isnt what it is when its India v Pakistan, either in cricket or in real life.
All the blasts: Kargil & WC 1999, Lata v Asha, Tam-Brahm wedding, Madras, Unglamourous Orissa, Idols and Bangalore.
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